A Paralympic champion and a woman who helped an elderly stranger are running neck and neck in the public votes for the inaugural Singaporean of the Year award.
Swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, 24, broke a world record at the Asean Para Games (APG) last month in the women's 50m backstroke event, despite the fact that her muscles are gradually losing their ability to function.
As of last Friday she had accumulated 400 votes, just 2 per cent more than Madam Noriza A. Mansor, 50, who stepped forward to help an old man who had soiled himself in a Toa Payoh supermarket - cleaning his legs while others flinched.
Since that incident in October 2013, the single mother has been visiting Mr Tan Soy Yong and his wife, Madam Lee Bee Yian, both 76, on her only day off every week, caring for them as if they were her own parents.
Stories about all 10 finalists are featured on The Straits Times website and readers can pick their choices for the winner before voting closes at 6pm on Thursday. From today, videos of the finalists will also be available on the site.
The award, supported by the bank UBS Singapore, seeks to recognise Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance improved their community and the lives of others last year. Three voters also stand to win a $100 shopping voucher each.
The other eight finalists include 52-year-old community volunteer Ang Thiam Hock, whose street football games help troubled children in his Taman Jurong neighbourhood, and 56-year-old former businessman Ben Cheong, who founded a charity to support the poor and displaced in Thailand and other Asian countries.
As of last Friday evening, more than 1,800 votes had been cast.
"Pin Xiu's a fighter and is punching above her weight due to diligence and sheer determination," one reader wrote. "She's also the best at what she does. Thus, she's the perfect personification of Singapore."
Another reader was touched by Madam Noriza's selflessness, commenting: "Noriza brings out the humanity in us and makes us want to do better for our fellow Singaporeans. It was very heart-warming to read her story."
The results from the public vote will be taken into consideration by the panel of 15 judges at a final meeting on Jan 29. The panel comprises editors and senior writers from The Straits Times newsroom, as well as celebrities and community leaders like singer Kit Chan, youth leader David Hoe and chef Willin Low.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony next week on Tuesday at UBS Business University, near Adam Road. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be the guest of honour.
The Singaporean of the Year will receive $20,000 and a trophy, and the other nine nominees will each get $5,000 from sponsor UBS.
Vote for who you think should be Singaporean of the Year at str.sg/singaporeanoftheyear2015